Tony Snow: Poor Little Rich Man
Okay, I'm a little behind on things. I should have posted about Tony Snow's recent announcement that he'll have to leave his White House job due to "financial pressures" yesterday. But I couldn't really be bothered. However, the story's gotten a lot more interesting over the past 24 hours anyway, so here we go.
Okay, first of all, maybe we should hold some type of benefit for Tony Snow's three kids. Their dad makes a paltry $168,000 a year. I know what you're thinking-- that's almost four times as much as the median household income for most Americans. But what you have to understand is, Tony made a lot more money when he was saying stupid things on a freelance basis. Now that he says stupid things for a White House paycheck, his quality of life has gone down dramatically. Why, just the other day, reports say that he wanted to buy a gold-plated inflatable bar fridge*, but was told he'd have to wait a few weeks. The injustice of it all is astounding.
What's most striking to me is that Tony Snow feels absolutely no shame at all in saying, "I'm worth more than $168,000 a year-- in fact, I feel like I need more, I'm so out of touch with reality." In the past, the Bush Administration has tried to present itself (in front of the press, anyway) as populist, plain-speaking, salt-of-the-earth types. Normal folks, you know, as opposed to those wine and cheese liberals? But this admission-- my lifestyle is so opulent that I can't survive on a salary that's much, much higher than yours-- seems to fly in the face of that message.
Well, to be precise, that's what was most striking yesterday. Today, I'm more interested in the response that his announcement has received around the old blogosphere. As one might expect, some people were sensible, others were senseless. Still others-- a very small minority-- were kind of inappropriate. And then there was Little Green Footballs...
Okay, just to be clear, if we're going to have a debate about whether the Daily Kos is a "hate site," then I think we have to agree that the jury is in, and Little Green Footballs is a hate site. I mean, this is a forum for racists who like to indulge in ad hominem attacks and name-calling. Imagine the worst excesses of the worst participants of the Daily Kos, and you'll have some idea of what kind of discussion is happening at Little Green Footballs.
Which, of course, makes it especially funny that-- as of this writing-- 826 people have weighed in on a thread devoted to "Hate Speech at the Huffington Post." The basic point of this discussion-- if I understand it correctly-- is that these people (using their own words) are upset by the vile, unresponsible [sic], idiotic, and disgusting responses that the story about Snow's impending departure received at The Huffington Post. Now, to be fair, some people did post some insensitive things-- remarks about Snow's cancer and so forth. But the overwhelming majority of the posters-- from what I saw when I looked-- seemed remarkably sensitive. Even as they voiced their disapproval of Tony Snow, many of them offered up kind words and best wishes for his continued good health. That seems remarkably classy to me-- especially considering how many right wing pundits have blasted John Edwards for having the nerve to run for president while his wife is dealing with cancer.
I suspect that the Little Green Football crowd would like to believe that Tony Snow's cancer makes any discussion of Snow's duplicity and deceptions off-limits-- how dare you attack a man with cancer, after all? What kind of insensitive boor would do such a thing? The man's been fighting for his life, after all.
Sorry, but no. Having cancer doesn't make Tony Snow above reproach. Nor does it make Elizabeth Edwards above reproach. Nor does it make me above reproach. Here's a little secret-- we all get cancer, if we live long enough. Each and every one of us will wind up in a hospital bed, in pain, scared for our lives, concerned for our loved ones. That's part of being alive-- we have to live with this knowledge and the fear and anxiety that it might generate.
But our lives are not necessarily defined by our illnesses-- not even the illnesses that will, in all likelihood, eventually kill us. It's not insensitive to call a cancer patient a lying, greedy bastard if-- as in Snow's case-- this is an accurate description. Similarly, if you wanted to call me way too charming and handsome for my own good, you shouldn't feel restrained just because of my health issues.
To be clear-- I haven't had cancer in seven years. However, my "illness experience," to use Dr. Arthur Kleinman's language in The Illness Narratives, is ongoing. I haven't had to have chemotherapy or radiation for a long time, but I still suffer from the effects of my disease-- I have a thyroid problem that requires constant medication, I'm a hypochondriac, I have occasional problems with anxiety, I'm infertile, and I sometimes walk with a slight limp if I work out too hard.
I'm also, occasionally, wrong. And it's not insensitive for people to point this out. A person with an illness deserves to be treated with respect and dignity-- part of that is acknowledging that this person still has enough agency to occasionally say stupid things he needs to be called out on.
*The reference to the gold-plated inflatable bar fridge is actually a South Park joke about Metallica's Lars Ulrich, and should not be read literally-- I am not actually trying to claim that Tony Snow is actually buying gold-plated inflatable bar fridges. I am, however, trying to claim that he's the type of world-class asshole who would buy a gold-plated inflatable bar fridge. Just so we're clear.